Pianist Alister Spence has an established reputation in his native Australia for blending improvisational jazz with melody and sampling to generate often elemental soundscapes, spacious – at times spaced out – music, one might say, from an expansive land.
Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
Star rating: * * * *
Here joined by a frequent collaborator, saxophonist Raymond MacDonald from the Glasgow Improvisers’ Orchestra, Swedish drummer Chris Cantillo and Swedish-based Canadian double-bassist Joe Williamson, he followed songlines that took in some intriguing places.
The programme, much of which was drawn from Spence’s recent album, Far Flung, opened with a sonorous hive-like droning of live and sampled bowed bass, gradually joined by bell-like piano chiming and languorous calling on soprano sax, morphing unhurriedly into cyclical minimalism, then a bluesy slouch, which became increasingly urgent.
There was some rumbustious bopping with jagged piano lines, while, in contrast, Seventh Song was filmic-sounding, with piano chiming over taut brushes and gently pulsing bass, squalling soprano sax and electronic looping gradually working the piece into what sounded wonderfully like a skein of migrating geese.
Then it was down to earth with MacDonald leading a mellow samba, although with an odd, grating undertow – was it an unruly sample or a just wonky mike?
Certainly there was nothing insubstantial about Spence’s composition Brave Ghost with its unison piano and sax riffing and purposeful drum work from Cantillo.